Results of being filled with the Spirit

In a comment (the fourth one) on his own blog Mike Aubrey, while making a technical point about the participles in the Greek text of Ephesians 5:19-21, brings out some important teaching about the Holy Spirit:

Most believe that the participles denote the result of the command to “be filled with the Spirit.” … In fact, as far as I am aware every single interpreter of Ephesians since Markus Barth has taken the participles of 19-21 as participles of result rather than imperatival (key words: “as far as I am aware”).

But Mike also argues that there cannot be a break between verses 21 and 22:

What I found was that there is absolutely no other instance where an ellided clause either begins a new pericope or sentence – much less imply a change in mood.

In other words, as I understand Mike’s argument, this passage and what follows up to 6:9 should be understood as follows (adapted from TNIV, 5:22-6:9 abridged):

Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, with the result that you will:

  • speak to one another with psalms, hymns and songs from the Spirit;
  • sing and make music from your heart to the Lord;
  • always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
  • submit to one another out of reverence for Christ:
    • wives, submitting yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord …
    • husbands, loving your wives, just as Christ loved the church …
    • children, obeying your parents in the Lord …
    • fathers, not exasperating your children …
    • slaves, obeying your earthly masters …
    • and masters, treating your slaves in the same way. …

This doubly nested list may not be the normal way of laying out a Bible translation, but it does seem to reflect Paul’s intention here, at least on Mike’s exegesis.

If Mike is correct, this implies that we Christians are not to put our effort into doing these good things like submitting to one another, still less into making others submit to us. Instead we are to allow ourselves to be filled with the Holy Spirit, and as we do so the Spirit will produce in our hearts these good fruits, of worship and thanksgiving and also of the mutual submission which is, or should be, characteristic of the Christian life.

0 thoughts on “Results of being filled with the Spirit

  1. Its also Gordon Fee’s understanding too according to his God’s Empowering Presence.

    The NLT is the best for making connection clear while still separating the passages via pericopes.

    “Wives, this means submitting to your husbands…”

  2. Peter,

    Maybe that is what Mike has in mind. We’ll see. I have my doubts about the global proposal, though I would be happy to be convinced that the proposal works.

    Another point of contention, a rip-roaring one: CBE-style egalitarians are fiercely committed to reading 5:21-6:8 as single-nested, with all six nested items being forms of mutual submission. I’m pretty sure that is not the case. The structure of 5:21-6:8, from the semantic point of view, is probably double-nested:

    submit to one another out of reverence for Christ:

    * wives, submitting yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord …
    * husbands, on your part, loving your wives, just as Christ loved the church …
    * children, obeying your parents in the Lord …
    * fathers, not exasperating your children …
    * slaves, obeying your earthly masters …
    * and masters, treating your slaves with corresponding regard, by not threatening them. …

    On this reading, love, non-exasperating behavior, and non-threatening behavior are not forms of subordination / submission, but examples of corresponding regard from the side of those to whom submission was expected to be given.

    Of course, it also true that love leads to surrender, which is a form of submission; that parents and employers, if they are decent ones, will submit to the requests of children and employees, as the occasion dictates. But I don’t those particular truths are the subject of discourse here.

  3. For some reason, the double-nesting scheme I think must be understood in 5:21-6:8 did not come through when my comment posted.

    I’ll try again:

    submit to one another out of reverence for Christ:

    * wives, submitting yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord …
    ——– husbands, on your part, loving your wives, just as Christ loved the church …
    * children, obeying your parents in the Lord …
    ——– fathers, not exasperating your children …
    * slaves, obeying your earthly masters …
    ——– and masters, treating your slaves with corresponding regard, by not threatening them.

  4. I like the way you have put this passage. I will read the comments closely, as it seems to me the empowerment to be and do is all given as provision within Christ.

  5. Its also important to remember that the “other person” – husband, children, slaves are all the same person in Greco-Roman culture. A point that is typically ignored in the majority of exposition of this passage.

  6. Mike, I realised that this was not a novel proposal, but I was glad to see it made explicit.

    John, I am aware that CBMW-style complementarians are fiercely opposed to reading 5:21-6:8 as single-nested. I expected better of someone like you who calls himself an egalitarian. But I have never seen anything like a convincing exegetical argument for double rather than single nesting. Anyway, this issue is not my focus with this post, so please let’s steer discussion in other directions.

  7. Peter,

    I’m glad to drop the subject if that is your wish.

    Just remember that there are plenty of exegetes of all ideological persuasions, including egals and flaming feminists, who read this passage and similar passages in the NT (Colossians 3:18-4:1; 1 Peter 2:18-3:7), for reasons of intellectual honesty, as supplying non-symmetrical role-differentiated advice. In these passages, Paul and Peter uphold the institutions of their day even as they seek to transform them from within. In that light, the double-nested reading of Ephesians 5:22-6:9 is the natural, plain sense reading of the text’s structure.

  8. John, read my post on Why real men don’t go to church, and the discussion about it also at 42. You will see that I agree with you that we have to work with the gender stereotypes that exist in our society without attempting to reinforce or enforce them, indeed while subtly undermining what is unhelpful in them. That I think is what the apostles did too.

  9. Pingback: The Results of a “Spirit Filling” | Think Theology

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